You have an online store, but how do you draw in new customers and keep them loyal? The answer is through offers, coupons, discounts and deals. It's a truth universally acknowledged that most online merchants will be faced at some time with the dilemma of whether to offer discounts, when to offer discounts and how much the discounts should be worth.
Offering discounts for your online store can be a powerful way to increase customers and customer loyalty – but a note of caution here – if used in a cavalier fashion you can do significant damage to your brand, which could have a knock-on effect on your profit growth.
The Pros and Cons of Online Store Offers
Easy to track
Increased customer acquisition
Increased customer loyalty
Decreased margins and profitability
Possible brand damage
Decreased conversions outside of sale periods if you train visitors to hold out for offers
Tendency to drive non-loyal (price driven) shoppers
Who Are You Targetting?
Online store offers can be an effective tool for not only increasing customer numbers but also for customer loyalty. However, it’s important to consider your overall brand strategy before you begin offering discounts.
If you want to position yourself as a higher end brand or if you have slimmer margins, you may want to consider sticking to customer loyalty type offers as opposed to weekly sales which might give the wrong impression. On the other hand, if you have healthy margins, deep discounting and daily/weekly sales might be better for hitting your goals.
Ultimately, you need to consider which offers and the type of offer is the right strategy for your brand.
Types of Offers
Overall there are several types of discounts and offers you have at your disposal. The most popular are:
Percentage Based Discount. This can include small incentive percentages like 5% or 10% off, a larger discount to really drive sales like 20% and 25% or large percentages like 50%+ to liquidate merchandise that's not moving or is old.
Free Shipping/Postage. Offering free shipping is a great way to mitigate basket abandonment and increase conversions. Often this is used in conjunction with a minimum order size to help increase the average order value.
Free Gift. This offers additional value to the customer and if used strategically, it can also be used to increase average order size and/or to get rid of a product that isn’t selling.
When and How to Use Offers
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular ways to use sales, offers, discounts and deals to increase customer numbers and conversions:
1. Weekly/Monthly Offers to Drive Sales and Meet Revenue Goals.
Often sales are used at the end of a month or quarter to increase revenues to meet projections and goals.
2. Prelaunch Offers.
If you're still in the prelaunch stage of your business or maybe launching a new product, you can use prelaunch offers to help drive traffic and peak interest.
3. Seasonal Offers.
Black Friday, Christmas and New Year are the big ones, but the whole year is sprinkled with holidays that you can use to stretch revenues with offers.
4. Abandoned Basket Offers.
Close to 70% of all potential customers abandon their baskets before completing. Abandoned basket email offers can be a powerful tactic to bring those people back.
5. Email/Newsletter Subscription Offer.
Building an email list is extremely important for online retailers. By providing an offer in exchange for visitor's email address, not only do you increase the chance of a conversion, but you also get their email, providing you with the opportunity to market new products and offers to them in the future.
6. Referral Offers.
People are much more likely to purchase from you if referred by a friend or family member. Use offers to encourage referrals. You can choose to give a deal to the person referring, the person being referred or both.
7. First Time Shopper Offer.
Providing an offer could be just the right incentive for the first-time visitor to make a purchase.
8. Volume/Basket Size Offer.
Want to upsell? An offer based on the total value of a basket is an effective upselling tactic to encourage customers to spend more and thus increase your average order size. Calculate your average order value for the previous few months and offer a discount or free postage on all orders 10-20% over your average order value.
9. Exclusive Social Media Offers.
Exclusive offers on social networks can be a great way to build a strong relationship with those that follow you as well as provide a reason for new people to follow and subscribe to your social channels. This will allow you to market to them in the future.
10. Customer Loyalty Offers.
Rewarding customer loyalty can help build an even stronger bond while also only providing discounts to customers who already spend money in your online store. It can be as simple as sending your best customers a personal email with a discount or coupon.
11. Exit Intent Offer.
Sometimes all it takes to convert a visitor into a customer is a last minute offer before they leave. An exit intent offer will popup just as your visitor is about to leave your site or close the tab, presenting them with a final offer to purchase.
12. Retargeting Offer.
These are effective because they're only shown to people that have been on your site before so they already know who you are. The ads serve as a reminder to come back and the offer serves as an incentive to purchase.
Offers and discounts are not right for every online business but they certainly have a part to play in promoting profit growth and increasing customers. Building an online business usually involves a lot of experimentation to understand what works best. Things may be slow to begin with but if you have a clear goal in mind, a firm understanding of your brand – and are not afraid to experiment – you can most effectively utilise offers to meet your objectives, build customer loyalty and increase revenue. The best approach is to choose a goal for evey campaign and offer, start small and measure the results. Good luck!
- Pricing Strategy: how to price a product, Bill McFarlane, 2012.
- Pricing for Profit: how to develop a powerful pricing strategy for your business, Peter Hill, 2013.
- The Strategy and Tactics of Pricing, Tom Nagle and John Hogan, 2016.